The purpose of this study was to understand perceived benefits, facilitators, disadvantages, and barriers for physical activity among South Asian adolescents in India and Canada.
Thirteen focus group discussions with South Asian (origin) adolescent boys and girls of different nutritional status and socioeconomic status in rural and urban India and urban Canada.
Across the groups, fitness and ‘energy’ were perceived to be major benefits of physical activity. In India, better academic performance was highlighted, while health benefits were well detailed in Canadian groups. In all settings, friends, family, and teachers were perceived as facilitators of as well as barriers to physical activity. Lack of a safe space to play was a major concern for urban adolescents, while academic pressures and preference for other sedentary recreational activities were common barriers across all groups. Girls were less likely than boys to be interested in physical activity, with girls’ participation in India further limited by societal restrictions.
The study suggests key areas for promotion of physical activity among South Asian adolescents: balance between academic pressure and opportunities for physical activity, especially in India; urban planning for a built environment conducive to physical activity; and gender-sensitive programming to promote girls’ activity which also addresses culture-specific barriers.